CAIRO: The Supreme Electoral Commission (SEC) ordered that election run-offs will not take place in several constituencies in Daqahleya, Qena and South Sinai, in compliance with court orders.
The run-offs for the third and final round of elections kicked off on Tuesday in the last nine provinces of Daqahleya, Qaliubiya, Gharbeya, Minya, Qena, North and South Sinai, Marsa Matrouh and El-Wadi El-Gadid.
Elections will be repeated on Jan. 14-15 in South Sinai as well as for the single winner seats in the third constituency of Qena which comprises Nagaa Hammadi and Disht. Run-offs will be held on Jan. 18-19.
Mostafa El-Gales, member of Qena’s Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution, said that most of the residents hailed the court order because they feared that former MP and ex-member of the now disbanded National Democratic Party (NDP), Abdel Rehim El-Ghoul, would win the workers’ seat in the run-offs.
"If El-Ghoul had won, according to the law, he would have led the parliament until a new leader is elected because he’s the oldest MP," El-Gales told Daily News Egypt.
El-Ghoul, who belongs to the strong Arabs tribe in Qena, was slated to compete against independent former MP Fathi Qandil in the run-offs, before they were canceled.
El-Gales described El-Ghoul as a hardcore NDP member who announced on several occasions that he was proud to be a remnant of the former corrupt regime.
"Any other former NDP candidate would be better than him," El-Gales said.
The railways were closed off for one day on Friday in Nagaa Hammadi and Disht districts by candidates and residents protesting against the results and violations that took place in El-Ghoul’s constituency.
Independent candidate Laila Khalifa, who is competing against El-Ghoul, told DNE that she led the race until late Jan. 4, followed by the Al-Nour-backed candidate Abdel Nasser.
"They delayed announcing the results until the next day and in the end we found out that El-Ghoul made it to the run-offs, although our representatives confirmed that he made [minimal gains] during the vote counting," Khalifa told DNE.
Khalifa said that eyewitnesses had seen truckloads of unmarked ballot boxes and that many ballots were not stamped or signed by judges, indicating that they were added, allegedly by El-Ghoul, after the polling stations were closed.
The court said that due to the chaos, lack of coordination and organization, in addition to the large number of candidates and voters, the integrity of the electoral process was compromised in this constituency.
Khalifa added that because El-Ghoul was an influential former MP, many of the employees working at the polling stations were either his relatives or at least hired by him and owed him favors.
Qena is a province dominated by a tribal culture. Khalifa speculated that employees affiliated with each tribe may have influenced voters to back their candidates, hence compromising the integrity of the polls.
"We presented a request to SEC today suggesting that employees at polling stations be brought in from outside Qena for that reason," she said.
In South Sinai, demonstrators cut the international road to Sharm El-Sheikh more than once on Thursday to protest the victory of the FJP candidate.
The protesters belonged to El-Mazayna and El-Qararsha tribes whose candidates failed to garner enough votes, even though their tribes voted for them, according to local reports.
The protesters said they were suspicious of the results because the Islamists lacked support in South Sinai, adding that there were no Islamist parties there.
On Friday, protests escalated in front of the ballot-counting stations at the city of Tor, Sinai against what they called the “vote-rigging plot.”
Some of the protesters tried to break into Tor’s main courthouse but were stopped by army forces that used teargas to disperse them.
Party lists will compete over four seats, while individual candidates will contest two seats.
In the Delta City of Daqahleya, the run-offs were halted in the first constituency housing the capital city of Mansoura, but they resumed in the remaining five constituencies allocated for individual candidates.
SEC is awaiting a final order by the Supreme Administrative Court to decide whether the elections will be repeated on both the closed party lists system and the individual candidates’ system in the first constituency.
Candidate Mohamed Adel Salaam Oweidy was apparently double-listed on the Egyptian Bloc’s party list and on the individual candidates’ ballot paper in the first constituency, causing the administrative court to issue a verdict to halt the run-offs in this constituency and order a repeat of the elections.
"Oweidy was supposed to be included only on the Bloc’s list, not as an individual candidate. This technical mistake caused confusion among the voters," said Mohamed Sallam, who tops the Bloc’s list in the first constituency in Daqahleya.
FJP candidate Yousry Hani won the professionals’ seat in the first constituency, while their candidate Tarek Qutb is facing off over the farmers-workers’ seat in the run-offs against former NDP MP Wahid Fouda.
However, Ibrahim Abou Ouf, the FJP secretary general in Daqahleya, downplayed the effect a repeat in the elections would have on the FJP.
"We won’t be affected and our supporters will vote for us again if the elections are repeated," Abou Ouf said.
Sallam also brushed off claims that repeating the elections would discourage voters from casting their ballots one more time.
"We are ready to rally the people’s support again and the people are willing to vote once more," he said.
Ten seats are up for grabs in Daqahleya’s first constituency, eight allocated to party lists and two to individual candidates. –Additional reporting by Omnia El-Desouki.